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October 2010

January 24, 2022

Starbucks to serve beer and wine at some U.S. stores

Let’s brainstorm together: if there is one place on earth where people linger too long, where is it?


Indeed, there are few social meeting spots as cliché as the coffee chain, yet still it persists, Starbucks being the  place you want to be if your desire is to be seen in public typing on your laptop, studying for an exam or wearing a cashmere scarf with glasses absent prescription frames.

Business-wise, having people spend incredible stretches of time in your outlets is a big money maker for Starbucks, though in the U.S. the franchise has found a way to lure customers in for even longer.

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October 29, 2021

Do Canadian politicians spend too much?

How does one measure progress?

1034792_canadian_flag Stephen Harper, for example, is Canada’s leader. You may not like it, but he is the voice of Canada for the world to hear. Surely, then, it’s important he visit foreign nations and fight for Canada’s agenda, not to mention what our country should be responsible for in the realm of global politics.

Yet how much is too much? A new report from the Vancouver Sun shows that Harper’s 15 trips, business and otherwise, cost about $7 million to taxpayers in the last year.

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October 28, 2021

A Ponzi schemer's depressing suicide note

In spite of all the pain they’ve caused, the great Ponzi schemers of the past few years have also become sort of cultural punch lines.

Yes, Bernie Madoff, for example, will never be able to repay his victims. But the 72-year-old Ponzi king has at least lost any shred of dignity he – or anyone with his last name – will ever have. There are even joke sites dedicated solely to the notorious swindler (“Q: Why should Bernie Madoff learn about insider trading? A: Because he’ll learn soon enough after he goes to jail!”).

But any light-hearted jabs at pyramid scammers may take a hit going forward after the depressing suicide note of one U.S. money crook has come to light.

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Why economic predictions are a shot in the dark

In a speech Wednesday, Charles Bean, the deputy governor of the Bank of England, admitted the bank had failed to see the Great Recession coming. But the same was true of virtually all other forecasters, he said. And it would happen again. "One should not expect to be able to predict the timing and scale of these sorts of events with any precision," Bean said.
Given the evidence, every forecaster should be as humble as Charles Bean. But they're not. When I watch business TV, or read commentary in newspapers, or browse the best-sellers at book stores, I see a parade of fast-talking experts who know what's coming. They're certain of it.

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Are grocery prices set to take off?

Over the past six decades, the amount of money a family spent on food has almost increased roughly five fold, from $1,130 to $5,347 annually.

During this same time frame, however, average family income has increased at a much more rapid pace, from $4,237 to $50,302.

These are a few of the interesting stats to be found in "Grocery Spending Habits,” an infographic from BillShrink looking at income, supermarket spending, and other household expenditures since the 1950s.

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October 27, 2021

Canada's pension system continues to rank high: report

Looking for a good place to retire? Try Holland.

For the second year in a row, the Netherlands obtained the top spot in a ranking of pension systems from around the world, earning a score of 78.3 out of 100.

Canada ranked fifth with a score of 69.9, ahead of the United States, United Kingdom and France, while China ranked worst with a score of 40.3.

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October 26, 2021

What can Canada learn from Rob Ford?

Aside from the humbling of many entrenched politicians, the largest consequence of Canada’s recent swell of elections has been the new directions our country’s cities now face.

And, with respect to Calgary mayor-elect Naheed Nenshi, Canada’s first Muslim mayor, the headline-stealer of every campaign may be that of Rob Ford, who earned the top job in Toronto just last night.

Now, this is a national blog, yes, but the rough-around-the-edges Ford has a few interesting campaign promises perhaps all of Canada can learn from.

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Are red light cameras simply a hidden tax?

Across the country, more and more intersections are sporting cameras designed to catch vehicles running red lights and reduce traffic accidents.

Earlier this year, for instance, the City of Ottawa doubled – 33 intersections across the city are now being monitored for red light infractions, up from 18 sites – the number of intersections equipped with cameras to nab careless drivers who run red lights.

But are these robotic photographers really up to the task of prevention or are they simply municipal fund generators?

It's currently a $325-fine for running a red light in the nation’s capital – $490 if you blow through a school zone.

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October 25, 2021

What's your favourite cheap, quick-fix Halloween costume?

The pressures of the modern day Halloween party should not be understated.

1165199_scary There’s only a select group of us that actually enjoys dressing up, so for the rest, it becomes a taxing, if not expensive, process of patching something together just to satisfy the Costume Nazis at your holiday gathering.

And if you don’t dress up, you might be subject to some lousy party penalty, like a shot of toilet water when you walk through the door or something equally threatening. But humans are crafty beings, and we’ve been side-stepping these unfair policies for years. So, why not celebrate how we’ve been doing it?

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Survey puts at-work-fraud loss at $2.9 trillion globally

Occupational fraud costs organizations about 5 per cent of their revenue annually, according to the latest data from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

The ACFE brief, entitled “Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse,” found the median loss caused by occupational fraud was roughly $160,000, with nearly one-quarter of the frauds involving losses of at least $1 million.

In many cases, the criminal activities lasted an average of 18 months before even being detected.

The study also found that companies with fewer than 100 employees suffered the greatest percentage of employee theft of all the companies studied, largely because small businesses tend to have far fewer anti-theft controls than larger organizations.

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October 22, 2021

Gay neighbours good for your home value?

There’s no shortage of great, controversial topics on the Dollars and Sex blog over at BigThink.com.

1108079_monthly_fee_5 Just take a look at the titles of a few recent posts on the site’s feed: “Ovulating Lap Dancers Make More Money” and “A Racial Gap In Condom Use.”

Again, fantastic. Each of BigThink author Marina Adshade’s articles are backed by academic research, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less divisive. Well, how about this one? “Gay Neighbours Are Good For Home Values.” That sound like something you’d like to read more of?

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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...